From the cherry blossom trees and National Cherry Blossom Festival programming to exciting outdoor activities, celebrate the best free things to do this spring in DC.
A family-friendly spring break filled with free activities awaits in Washington, DC. The season is headlined by the blooming of cherry blossom trees and the corresponding National Cherry Blossom Festival, but your spring excitement does not have to be limited to that. There are plenty of free things to do and we’ve listed some of our favorites below.
Make your way down the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail
The southeast pocket of DC has undergone significant development in recent years, including a continuous new 20-mile Anacostia Riverwalk Trail that runs along both sides of the Anacostia River through the Capitol Riverfront and Anacostia neighborhoods. Run, bike or stroll down the 10-12 foot wide trail that winds next to the revitalized waterway.
Enjoy the National Cherry Blossom Festival
The National Cherry Blossom Festival isn't just a celebration of the blossoms—it's a three-week-long cultural festival held across the city. This year's full calendar of events includes the Opening Ceremony (March 25), the Blossom Kite Festival (March 26), Petalpalooza (April 8) and the Parade (April 15), among many other events. Many of these are free to attend or enjoy online. The National Park Service will share a peak bloom forecast as spring draws closer, which we'll share here. The best viewing of the cherry blossom trees typically lasts four to seven days after peak bloom begins, but the blossoms can last for up to two weeks under ideal conditions.
Explore flowers beyond the National Mall
Seeing the blossoms on the National Mall is essential during any spring vacation to DC, but your flower exploration does not have to stop there. Check out the Bishop’s Garden at the Washington National Cathedral, which was planned to suit the 14th-century-style Gothic cathedral, or check out the Rock Creek Park, which offers blooming wildlife all year long.
Immerse yourself in DC's international culture with Passport DC
Passport DC (May 1-31) offers a month of programming across the city that focuses on highlighting international cultures. The Around the World Embassy Tour (May 6) and the European Union Open House (May 13) are annual highlights. Most events and tours can be enjoyed entirely free of charge.
Celebrate women all over DC
Washington, DC is always celebrating the success of all women in the nation’s capital. Be proud of what women have accomplished and check out the numerous ways you can celebrate amazing women in DC, including the National Portrait Gallery, the National Museum of African American History and Culture and many more.
See blossoms around town
The Tidal Basin, including the cherry blossoms that surround the incredible Stone of Hope at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, and East Potomac Park are not the only places to feature cherry blossoms in DC. Stanton Park in historic Capitol Hill features a dramatic display of the trees, as does the U.S. National Arboretum.
Check out Recreation Pier at The Wharf
The Wharf’s Recreation Pier is perfect for catching some rays in its lounge chairs, or you can take a seat at any of its outdoor desks. There are also modern swing sets, where you can swing back and forth while admiring breathtaking views of the Washington Channel. Phase II of the development has also opened, meaning you have additional dining and shopping options to explore at The Wharf.
Admire city views from the Netherlands Carillon
Located on the George Washington Memorial Parkway, adjacent to the Arlington National Cemetery, the Netherlands Carillon was a gift from the Dutch to the U.S. in 1954 as thanks for assistance during World War II. The grounds on which the open steel tower sit are perfect for picnicking and provide a glorious vista of the DC skyline.
Visit pandas and hundreds of other animals at Smithsonian's National Zoo
Smithsonian's National Zoo is currently open open daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. with entry passes required. Families can see a wide range of species from habitats all over the world, as well as everyone's favorite panda, Xiao Qi Ji. Make sure to visit the Zoo's website for more information about what to expect.